For cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) Cl- channels to open, they must be phosphorylated by protein kinase A and then exposed to a hydrolyzable nucleoside triphosphate, such as ATP. To test whether channel opening is linked to ATP hydrolysis, we applied VO4 and BeF3 to CFTR channels in inside-out patches excised from cardiac myocytes. These inorganic phosphate analogs interrupt ATP hydrolysis cycles by binding tightly in place of the released hydrolysis product, inorganic phosphate. The analogs acted only on CFTR channels opened by ATP and locked them open, increasing their mean open time by 2-3 orders of magnitude. These findings establish that opening and closing of CFTR channels are coupled to an ATP hydrolysis cycle.